Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

rain, petrichor, and pluviophiles

via google

via google

We’ve had 7 inches of rain this past week. Other parts of Oklahoma have had a foot or more. When I went to the Farmer’s Market this week, the radishes looked more like scarlet beets, they were so huge!

The fragrance of rain hitting dirt has a name: petrichor. I remember when I learned that word — it resonated like some kind of bell inside me. I adore rain, in all its guises (well, not the killer tornado so much…). Spring sprinkles, gentle drenchings, howling storms, and the crashing percussive music of thunder. Not to mention the fireworks of lightening!


That makes me an utter pluviophile — a lover of rain & all things rainy. I even have a bright orange rain jacket! AND an umbrella, so that I can walk merrily through puddles.

One of my happiest memories is walking w/ my two sons — who must have been about 9 and 5 — through a storm, holding our umbrellas against the Oklahoma winds, to the hamburger joint around the corner from us. It doesn’t matter that they probably don’t remember; I do. We kicked puddles, and ended up happily soaked, just in time to enter the warm dining room.

Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture,

Dale Chihuly’s glass sculpture,


When I think of the drought-stricken western US, I’m beyond sad. Yes, drought kills crops. And animals. And leaves forest fires in its wake. But there’s a less-discussed benefit to rain: it cleanses and heals. The allergens are washed out of the air, and my beloved’s headache has disappeared. The birds practically fluoresce: scarlet cardinals, blueblack crows, the red crowns of finches and the brilliant blue of jays. The grass thickens and seems to stretch in happy health. Me too.

Beginner’s heart needs rain, I think. We need to return to our true colours — like the Tibetan story of the lama who held the pebble in the water, demonstrating how the dull rock gleamed with unnamed colours beneath the water’s surface. Just beneath our surface, if we can find a way to wash away the everyday junk that dull us, is who we really are. I like to think I’m the colours of a Chihuly glass sculpture — flame & glitter & indigo green. It just takes a good rain to remind me.



tiny house I’m enamoured of tiny houses. My dream is that I will someday be able to fit my entire belongings into 1/s of a tiny house, w/ my beloved paring his down, as well. Every thing we own would be a well-loved piece, one with intrinsic value, and/or useful.

The house might just be 3 ‘rooms’ — a living/dining/cooking area; a sleeping area; a bathroom. That’s it. Three rooms, and only the best-loved accoutrements.

‘Declutter’ is the word on trend. But I tend to think of it as an ongoing process in my life: simplification. Trying to find good homes for the many possessions I still own that trail context & meaning behind them like kite tails. The two tea sets my grandmother painted by hand. My mother-in-law’s pressed glass plates & bowls. YARDS of linens, even after giving away tablecloths & napkins & runners & more.


I want space — as much space as time. And it takes one (time) to create the other. But space also feeds time: it’s a recursive process. The fewer material objects I have to care for, the more time I have to do what’s important (NOT clean & dust!).

There’s a book I read recently, on the ‘life-changing magic’ of simplifying your life. It’s not the first of its genre — not even the 1st I’ve read. But it came at a time when I was more than ready: a time when I felt (as I do periodically) overwhelmed w/ stuff. Too many things w/ meaning — what happens after a life full of generous friends & family. Too many teapots, too many quilts, too much silver… Just tooooo much.


So I’m ‘decluttering.’ Or simplifying. I want to have only things I adore in my house, on my desk. I don’t know what to do w/ the rest of it, but I’m pretty sure solutions (and I suspect there will be more than one!) will turn up. As I give away books and clothes I’ll never wear again, jewellery that doesn’t fit my lifestyle (and probably never did!), I’m feeling as if weight is dropping off me. Literally: a pound here, a kilo there. It’s exhilarating.

Tiny(er?) house, here I come. Now I just have to figure out how to convince my beloved… 😉


the magic of seeds…

the author's

the author’s

Seeds are a GREAT metaphor. Unlike gardens… Well, maybe gardens work for some folks, but they don’t work for me when people use them to talk about multiculturalism. Hello, I GARDEN.

At a verrry prestigious fellowship I once received, I sat at a table w/ a lot of pretty traditional academics. There were a few of us (thank you, universe!) who weren’t so traditional (re: hidebound). We were women, and/or black, and/or in disciplines that had to do with cultures very unlike our mother cultures.


This made us more suspect than I had anticipated.

I don’t think I’m naïve. But when people are faculty in fields like philosophy, or religion, I expect them to be … well, more open-minded than closed-. So when we began to discuss the white bread environment of our university, and the white guys said we needed to be more like a garden? The C list (that’s what the five of us called ourselves — note that we weren’t even the B list!) spoke up immediately: So who are the slugs? And who are the unseen but critical earthworms? And who are the beautiful (but kind of useless) roses?? And what about blackspot?? We ALL gardened, and knew that metaphor far too well.



But gardens are pretty, and guys (even white guys) can garden w/out threat to their…privilege. Not so w/ the metaphor the C Listers preferred: Alice Walker’s quilt, the unsung art of nameless women over the centuries. Each piece formerly a working piece of clothing, now stitched next to another, every piece critical to the whole fabric of the quilt top. Like this one pieced decades ago by my great-grandmother. I know, looking at it, that every cloth fragment has a story — much as we do. And every piece at one time provided an important service: dress, shirt, pants, blanket…

I also know that quilts seem like ‘women’s work.’ While gardens are a bit more gender-inclusive. My beloved brother-in-law is one of the best gardeners know — up there w/ my old ladies, who could grow green in asphalt, I swear. Greg has transformed a north Dallas suburban pancake into an ad for Southern Living: garden rooms opening tantalisingly just beyond a corner; a brick path leading beyond your eyesight; water trickling down a wall. And butterflies and birds everywhere.


Me? I’m planting seeds this year. I don’t many years; I buy local baby plants, and tuck them under their own soft quilt of dirt & mulch & leaf mould. But this year, I wanted to dream big, as well as return to my childhood (you can do both, you know!). So I bought Heavenly Blue morning glories and white moonflower, traditional Southern passalong plants, handed from one gardener to the next in the line.

And this summer, as they bloom? I will think of possibility. Of small deeds that grow & blossom. Of beauty that springs from darkness. And of growth. What better metaphor for beginner’s heart?



what feeds you?

via UK Telegraph

via UK Telegraph

This is a miracle tortoise. I’m not exaggerating: it survived THIRTY YEARS in a locked storeroom. With no water (so far as anyone could tell), and no ‘real’ food.


Given, a vet told the family (who were totally blown away – who wouldn’t be??) that red-footed tortoises can go up to 3 years w/out eating. But THIRTY?

What did she do for those 30 years, locked away in the room of broken junk? How did she survive?

And of course, being a poet — always seeing metaphors & signs & omens & portents — I thought: what feeds me? What can I survive without? And what is essential? Because I’m thinking water is pretty darn critical, even for a tortoise (the landlubber member of the turtle family). But so is love. And for me, I need beauty almost as much as bread.

So here’s my question for you (one I’m still considering): what do you need — what must you have — to live? What is your emotional/ spiritual water? Think about it…. I am.


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